'Choose Life' license plates ruled unconstitutional in North Carolina
December 11th, 2012
01:13 AM ET

'Choose Life' license plates ruled unconstitutional in North Carolina

By Joe Sutton, CNN

(CNN) - A federal judge ruled that North Carolina's new "Choose Life" license plates are unconstitutional because the state does not offer a pro-choice alternative.

"The State's offering a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice alternative constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment," U.S. District Court Judge James Fox wrote in the ruling Friday.

The ruling was praised by the American Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a lawsuit in 2011 to stop the specialty plates.

"This is a great victory for the free speech rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on reproductive freedom," said Chris Brook of the ACLU. "The government cannot create an avenue of expression for one side of a contentious political issue while denying an equal opportunity to citizens with the opposite view."

Republican state Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who sponsored the bill for the "Choose Life" plates, said he would push for an appeal of the judge's decision, CNN affiliate WRAL reported.

The bill for the license plates passed in 2011, and the legislation also mandated that money raised from the sale of the specialty plates would go to a nonprofit that supports crisis pregnancy centers, WRAL reported.

During the fight to get the bill passed, North Carolina lawmakers voted down amendments that would have created pro-choice alternatives such as "Trust Women. Respect Choice," the affiliate reported.

The "Choose Life" plates are available in 29 states, according to Choose Life Inc., a nonprofit that helps states that want to sell these specialty plates.

- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Abortion • Courts • North Carolina

soundoff (3,213 Responses)
  1. clarke

    I am not sure I understand, how it is ok in 28 other states and not in this state. It is just a plate stating what someone believes.. Why the big fuss.

    December 11, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • TSRVT

      Not too bright, are you?

      December 11, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • jblaker1

      The Republican controlled legislature rejected 6 other amendments that would have provided license plates for prochoice customers were rejected

      December 11, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  2. joe k

    A small step for Americans, a giant leap for common sense. You can put all the pro-life stickers you'd like on your car – have a blast. You can even get a new sticker to cover up that old Bush-Cheney sticker, but why a plate with your political opinion?

    December 11, 2012 at 6:56 am |
  3. Peter Bishop

    Choice is something you have on a menu at your favorite restaurant. The opposing plate should read "Choose Death" with two skulls.

    December 11, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • SCable

      No, Peter, just one skull, or even better, just pieces of one skull with some guts and blood and tiny fingers on it.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • GOP Crapola

      No you fool. Pro-Choice means that you can chose without some GD conservative telling you how to live your life or getting in the way of what goes on in your bedroom.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • tkogrady

      Well, it actually means choose birth, because most fiscal conservatives are against their tax dollars subsidizing the living – no head start, no welfare, no food stamps. So make sure the little kids are born, but who gives a crap about them after they've cleared the birth canal.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:09 am |
    • End Religion

      The opposing plate did read "Trust Women. Respect Choice" but you voted it down. So, we sued to bring the whole thing down. Didn't think this through as usual, did you Republitards? You fight vehemently to force women to conceive, you yell "stop the murder" then as soon as the child is born you say "fuck'm" and take away social programs, then you gather together outside the prison yard, clapping and cheering as they are electrocuted. You call this thought process "righteous."

      December 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  4. jerri uhl

    We hv pro-life plate n colo. It has a columbine on it. I wish i had a pro-choice plate 2 choose from.

    December 11, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  5. J

    How is this a victory for free speech when it was taken away?

    December 11, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • SCable

      Oops! Freedom of speech laws only apply when you want to say something the ACLU agrees with.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • sam stone

      free speech is not taken away by this ruling. the legislators have voted down pro-choice plates

      December 11, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • sam stone

      SCable: Free speech applies to all. Of course, they are going to advocate for positions with which they agree.

      December 11, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • End Religion

      Wow, you funidiots even *smell* stupid!

      December 11, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  6. Red Dog


    December 11, 2012 at 6:48 am |
    • GOP Crapola

      GD republicans and their damned GOP religion! JESUS NEVER said a thing about abortion or even Gays. If it was so important, he would have said it clearly. Besides, conservatives only care for the fetus. Once they are born, they need to fend for themselves.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  7. IndyMike

    Trust the ACLU to be on the wrong side of another issue.

    December 11, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • Scott

      Yeah... because silencing those you disagree with is always the "right side of the issue".

      December 11, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • Southerner01


      How is having a "choose life" plate silencing anyone?

      December 11, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • sam stone

      Southern: Because the legislators voted down a pro-choice plate. Did you read the article?

      December 11, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • End Religion

      sam stone, stop being silly. He is republican. Of course he didn't read the article. Though it can be hard to tell because if he had read it, he still wouldn't understand it. You see, it's because they're all about as smart as the stuff that mushrooms grow best in.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  8. Reality

    The license plates in all states should read:


    Added details:

    The reality of se-x, abortion, contraception and STD/HIV control: – from an agnostic guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill (8.7% actual failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% actual failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":
    – (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
    – (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)
    Followed by:
    One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
    Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
    The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
    Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
    IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

    Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

    December 11, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • LivinginVA

      In other words, given the current stats on contraception use, there will be more than THIRTY THOUSAND women who get pregnant while on the pill every year.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • LivinginVA

      If 1/3 are married, then 10K married women use a specific and effective form of birth control yet get pregnant. This pregnancy would be a result of stupidity, how?

      December 11, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • Reality

      You are comparing the perfect use failure statistics to the actual failure statistics (0.3% vs 8.7%)

      Doing the math:

      "Facts on Contraceptive Use


      January 2008 and June 2010


      • 62 million U.S. women (and men?) are in their childbearing years (15–44).[1]

      • 43 million women (and men) of reproductive age, or 7 in 10, are se-xually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they or their partners fail to use a con-traceptive method.[2]

      • The typical U.S. woman (man?) wants only 2 children. To achieve this goal, she (he?) must use cont-raceptives for roughly 3 decades.[3]


      • Virtually all women (98%) aged 15–44 who have ever had int-ercourse have used at least one con-traceptive method.[2](and men?)

      • Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using one.[2] (and men)

      • 31% of the 62 million women (and men?) do not need a method because they are infertile; are pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant; have never had inte-rcourse; or are not se-xually active.[2]

      • Thus, only 7% of women aged 15–44 are at risk of unwanted pregnancy but are not using con-traceptives.[2] (and men?)

      • Among the 42 million fertile, s-exually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are practicing con-traception.[2] (and men?)


      • 64% of reproductive-age women who practice con-traception use reversible methods, such as oral con-traceptives or condoms. The remaining women rely on female or male sterilization.[2]


      Percentage of women experiencing an unintended pregnancy (a few examples)
      Some examples

      Pill (combined)……… 8.7
      Tubal sterilization ……0.7
      Male condom ……….17.4
      Vasectomy…………… 0.2
      IUD (Copper-T)……….1.0
      (Masturbation mono or dual)………. 0

      Periodic abstinence.. 25.3 (RCC approved)
      Calendar 9.0 (RCC approved)
      Ovulation Method 3.0 (RCC approved)
      Sympto-thermal 2.0 (RCC approved)
      Post-ovulation 1.0 (RCC approved)

      No method 85.0" (RCC approved and important to women and men wanting to get pregnant)

      (Abstinence) 0 (RCC approved)

      More facts about contraceptives from



      Cont-raceptive method use among U.S. women who practice con-traception, 2002

      Method No. of users (in 000s) % of users
      Pill………….. 11,661……………. 30.6
      Male condom 6,841……………… 18.0 "

      The pill fails to protect women 8.7% during the first year of use (from the same reference previously shown).

      i.e. 0.087 (failure rate)
      x 62 million (# child bearing women)
      x 0.62 ( % of these women using contraception )
      x 0.306 ( % of these using the pill) =

      1,020,000 unplanned pregnancies
      during the first year of pill use.

      For male condoms (failure rate of 17.4 and 18% use level)

      1,200,000 unplanned pregnancies during the first year of male condom use.

      The Guttmacher Inst-itute (same reference) notes also that the perfect use of the pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate
      (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male condom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).

      o Conclusion: The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the pill or condoms properly and/or use other methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  9. Trevisan Fundador

    Make it a f-- death-penalty crime to have a license plate with ANYTHING on it except the f-- license plate number...

    December 11, 2012 at 6:46 am |
  10. Owl96

    Do you always need to offer a plate for the "other side"? Now they will no longer offer Purple Heart plates unless they can also offer "Never Served" plates too. I just thought that states offer plates if they have a large enough group to buy them and the legislator approved.

    December 11, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Red Dog

      I want a plate that says F- YOU.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:50 am |
    • Scott

      I guess you missed this part of the article:

      "The government cannot create an avenue of expression for one side of a contentious political issue..."

      Receiving a Purple Heart vs not serving is not a contentious issue.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • GOP Crapola

      I want t a plate that says F-the GOP.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:08 am |
    • End Religion

      Stop being silly. He is republican. Of course he didn't read the article. Though it can be hard to tell because if he had read it, he still wouldn't understand it. You see, it's because they're all about as smart as the stuff that mushrooms grow best in. Just look at the Republitards in all their shining glory with the same stupid comment over and over. How embarrassing, except of course they're so fucking inept they probably don't realize their own stupidity. Amazing how they survived this long.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  11. montyross

    now free speech involves a stipulation of an alternative viewpoint

    December 11, 2012 at 6:43 am |
    • midwest rail

      Sorry – no 1st Amendment issues involved here.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:48 am |
  12. Dlc

    Actually I do have the degree and I passed the CPA exam and I am a practicing CPA. For "used to live in the South" that is called an acronym. You can search for what it stands for. You insulted any hard working person who does work at McDonalds. Does it make you feel better about yourself? What job are you getting ready for this morning?

    December 11, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • MisterPL

      "CPA" is not an acronym. You may want to do your own research on that.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • Used to live in the South

      At least I know how to hit the "reply" button. And CPA is not an acronym, it's an abbreviation. And as far as my job, I'm in charge of the Christmas penguins at the North Pole. Chew on that for a minute.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • Southerner01

      Actually, CEO is an acronym. Acronyms do not have to be pronounced as a word, such as radar, although many people hold that misconception.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  13. DrJStrangepork

    Perhaps they shouldn't waste their time swimming in this issue. Grown men and women sitting in a large room together and this crap is what they are talking about.

    December 11, 2012 at 6:36 am |
  14. watash60

    Liberal jiudges have helped with the downgrading of America

    December 11, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Ditto for conservative judges. A judge should be objective.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:41 am |
  15. xmatman

    Ignorance, too, is a choice; and the one more often made.

    December 11, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • Skeptimist

      Ignorance is no excuse for not knowing it all. It's authority that counts. Ask any CEO.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:10 am |
      • xmatman

        I would, but he's in jail! Guess that means you're right? 😀

        December 15, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  16. Mark Yelka

    "They" don't want a democracy, equality, or fairness. They want a theocracy, intolerance, and only their opinion to matter.

    December 11, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • montyross

      sounds good, review history and it will concur with youre sarcasm

      December 11, 2012 at 6:46 am |
    • GOP Crapola

      Religious conservatives have so much in common with the Taliban. They are one and the same.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  17. Jim

    Fine, offer the opposing view plates for them then... "Choose Infanticide" with lots of little fetus parts all around the plate.

    December 11, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • End Religion

      How very Christian of you to want to display dead body parts in public for children to see. Your pastor would be ashamed of you if he knew.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • saggyroy

      Another genius (probably home schooled) who can't read an entire article or follow it. It says the alternative plate said "Trust Women. Respect Choice,"

      December 11, 2012 at 6:20 am |
    • sam stone

      you lost, jimmy.....enjoy your hissy fit

      December 11, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • Anne

      Im okay with that Jim if you show all the kids in care or worse because their parents chose life.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Abrahamic religions are devoutly pro-infanticide.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • SCable

      You guys are all right – Jim should have said the plate should say "Choose Death" with kid body parts floating all over it. His mistake. He stands corrected. We really do need to give the other side fair and equal time.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:42 am |
    • Southerner01

      It is much simpler than these suggestions. The opposing plate should merely say "Don't choose life" and have the picture of the little kids with a red circle around it and a slash through it.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • GOP Crapola

      You religious fool. I DARE YOU to find in the Bible where Jesus says he is against abortion in his own words! Look it up, its not there. That decision belongs privately with women, their partner and their doctor. No religious fool should be part of it. The right to chose means that you can chose to keep the baby or abort it for what ever the reason without having some religious fool telling you what has to happen. Besides, those that want a choice are way more likely to help the born child than the ones that are against the choice. Such is the hypocrisy of the religious right. Making life into a political point.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • Linea

      The "choose life" plate text is incorrect – these are created by and marketed to those who do not want to let anyone actually have any choice about whether to let a zygote develop into a real human being. These plates should actually read "force birth".

      What happens to a real human being after birth occurs, however, they don't seem to care much about.

      December 11, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  18. KG

    If this is the case, then they should also ban Environmental plates as they may offend people who drive SUV's and they don't offer ones that say "Global Climate Change is a Myth".

    December 11, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • midwest rail

      Didn't bother reading the full story, did you ?

      December 11, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • End Religion

      Nutters do have trouble reading. Perhaps CNN should ad some Cliff Notes for them and little children? They could be written in crayon.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • Drew Miller

      You're just mad because My God is better than your god!

      December 11, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  19. maxmaxwell

    This is why the states need to separate themselves three feet from the fed. The fed can't even balance a budget yet they can tell a state what they can print on a license plate. Oh wow can we all go to the zoo now????

    December 11, 2012 at 5:50 am |
    • Martin Not Luther

      Since when are issues regarding the 1st amendment NOT a federal issue? Oh yea, I know, whenever a teatard says so..

      December 11, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • End Religion

      Is this web site correct in that N. Carolina has a budget deficit?

      December 11, 2012 at 6:10 am |
    • Keith

      Curious how many "Choose Life" states that offer no opposing view run a budget deficit, not only at the state level, but regarding how much money they take from the Fed compared to how much they pay into the Fed. My guess is that there's going to significant correlation between those states in the red ink with those that vote red and with views like your ignorant comment. But, hey, yeah, please secede from the union, and take all of your red state states and their red electoral votes with you! I think that'd be a win-win for everyone! It sure would help the federal budget!

      December 11, 2012 at 6:30 am |
  20. Sam

    Here's a thought. Maybe you should choose to keep your half educated nose out of other peoples business.

    December 11, 2012 at 5:49 am |
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